A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the origin of the blues down in the south of the USA. The other major style of blues arose in Chicago at the time of the Great Depression. The depression began in 1929 and there is argument as to when it finished. Those at the top of the heap say it lasted about five years, but for most people it didn’t end until World War II in 1939. Being a soldier was the first full-time job many had. I could go on about conservative politicians blaming the unemployed for being unemployed, but that’s an old song.
The blues is often seen as a resort of the older person, preferably with a black t-shirt and Harley Davidson. In my last column I talked about the origin of the blues in work songs decades ago in the south of the USA. There’s actually a large number of younger people getting into the blues, often as a result of participating in the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society’s ‘Youth in Blues’ program, or our local ‘Blues Boot Camp’ organised by Wayne Jury and with a high quality set of mentors including Chris Wilson, Tim Neal, Sarah Carroll, Sandy Brady, Dave Steel and David Park. Recently, one such graduate, Jarrod Shaw, was a headliner at Sleepy Hollow.
There’s a lot of discussion of classic blues players – Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe – and a cast of many more whose music has formed, influenced and been a model for many modern blues singers. Talk to these singers and you’ll hear these names and more mentioned again and again.
One of the things about blues is its amazing international flavour. Take Ivan Zar. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt and migrated to Perth in 1963. At an early age he taught himself the harmonica and Delta blues style guitar. Five years after getting to WA, he formed his first band, King Biscuit Co.
It’s one thing to select a pizza off the menu, but when you’re at home or with friends, you can select and mix and match exactly what you all like. OK, so that’s a weird way to start a music column, but what I want to talk about this time is “jamming”. Many people have seen the term, but don’t really know what it’s about, or think it’s just for musicians only, which is definitely wrong. Jamming is nothing more or less than musicians getting together and playing together.
Four years ago I was at the Anglesea Music Festival, on the prowl with my trusty recorder, searching out people to interview. One of the people I spotted was Jessey Jackson. She came across as young, self-assured and exuberant – just the sort of person for an interview, and so she was. It was a good interview; she happily talked about her music, her ambitions, the life she saw ahead.
Wow! Last weekend’s Sleepy Hollow double header was bigger than the proverbial Ben-Hur! The double header was unusual for the Club, but may well get a rerun, given the interest. The event turned out to be standing room only right from Chubby Rae and the Elevators kicking off, through to Sweet Felicia and the Honeytones winding up.
In my last article, I talked about women in the blues – and believe me, there’s more around on that than the little I put in front of you. But, I figured that rather than spend time on too much in the way of general articles, I should alternate with a bit of detail on specific artists. More than that, specific local artists. I came to Geelong in 1998, and even though I had lived in Melbourne for a while back in the ’70s, I’d never been to Geelong, or for that matter anywhere in south-western Victoria.
So, for my first lyric poem addressing the blues, I thought I’d stir some reaction by talking about women in the blues, and list a few Australian blues women that we can rightly be proud of. This should bring a torrent of abuse for not including the favourites of most readers. What can I say? I’ll always take the medicine. Oh, and start your own web page listing and commenting on them!